Selecting a Reed

  • Slur up tests
    • Test E2-C3
    • Test C3-C4
    • Test D3-D4
    • Test Eb3-Eb4
  • Inspection/adjustment
    • Will butt end fit on bocal?
    • Is it symmetrical?
  • Blade strength balance test
  • Tip opening/closure
  • Blow for tone
  • Wire inspection test
  • Throat inspection
  • Tip opening
  • Crow test
  • Tap test

The Crow Test

  • reed-scrape-1-3d-ppDry crow
  • Pitch of crow
  • Split octave
  • Full crow
  • In and out crow
  • Adjustments: sanding or scraping
  • Tap tests


Tests for Open F through C2
The Big Five

  • Pitch centering
    • Play the note where it’s comfortable.
    • Check tuner.
    • Make appropriate adjustments.
  • Ear plug test
    • Hold the note in tune with tuner.
    • Plug ear.
    • Note if pitch drifts sharp or flat.
  • Stability and articulation
    • Note if pitch changes with dynamics changes (ppsffz) and repeated articulation.

Six Adjustment Choices

 If Sharp

  • Adjust wires: 1T/2T
  • Thin and taper the tip in the note’s zone
  • Sand blade front ¼
  • Check blade for strength imbalance
  • Loosen or notch 1st wire
  • Back off bocal/add wire
 If Flat

  • Adjust wires: 2S/1S
  • Flip or Clip?
  • Check bocal penetration; ream
  • Tighten and round wires
  • Check tip gradient/lateral taper
  • Narrow reed shape

Tip Taper and Gradient

tipopening-3-4-5-4-3-pp tip-dip-behind-v-pp

Corner Bend Test

corner-bend-scrape3-pp corner-bend-scrape3-blade-pp

Problem Tip Openings

tip-aperture-distortions-smile-frown-pp tip-aperture-2f-with-arrow-pp tip-aperture-distortions

Tests for Fork Eb and D, the Nexus Note

  • Achieve balance between soft, “bare” Fork Eb and D pitch center.
  • Nexus note ear plug check (D2, D3).
  • Cross checks (relatives) for Eb:
    • C3 Harmonic
    • Ab-Bb Trill
    • Fork Bb3

Key and Pad Stop Adjustment Points for Tuning

  • Adjust from bottom up, first open tone holes (F, G, A), then closed tone holes (F#, Ab, Bb).
  • 5mm average from pad (raised end) to tone hole.
  • Tuning tape??
  • Pad height vs. tone hole size.
  • Shim or sand paper?
  • Key and pad stop adjustment points.
  • U-Tube gasket.

Ten Reasons to Clip the Tip

Reasons to clip tip/shorten vibrating length (tip to 1st wire):

  • E2 is unstable at forte or pianissimo.
  • F2 is unstable at forte or pianissimo.
  • C#2 or C#3 is unstable at forte.
  • Alternate E2 is flat.
  • Won’t slur across break to C3 from open F.
  • Can’t slur up easily to F3 from F2.
  • Harmonic fingerings are still flat after working rails.
  • Pitch of regular and alternate F#3 don’t match.
  • Can’t slur up to alt high C, D or Eb.
  • The reed still plays flat after adjustments and reaming.

Level 2: Middle Register Method

Harmonic Convergence


  • Compare harmonic and other test fingerings to standard fingerings.
  • Goals:
    • Match pitch of standard fingerings to harmonic/test fingerings.
    • Eliminate fuzzy articulation and croaking/split tone.
  • Tuning is accomplished by scraping or sanding in a note’s tuning zones:
    • Channels (center of channel or neighboring spine zone)
    • Rails
  • Tap test: for channel, high pitch first; for rail, low pitch first.
  • Requires back and forth adjustments between channel, rail, and spine zones.
  • Cross checks with neighbors and related tests.
  • Pitch deviation between standard and test fingerings directs adjustments.

harmonic-notes-crooppedHarmonic Fingerings

  • Fundamental note is a 12th below the note you are comparing and tuning, 3rd partial.
  • Half-hole or register key assistance.
  • *Alternate fingering test notes.



Pitch Tendencies in Middle Register

  • Sharp tendency notes: F#, G, Ab
    • Lowering pitch of harmonic lowers pitch of standard fingering.
  • Flat tendency notes: tuning A, Bb, B, C, C#, D, Eb
    • Lowering the pitch of harmonic/test fingering raises pitch of standard fingering.
  • Non-harmonic test notes include French E, alternate F, and F#, comparing F# standard to alternate.


Level 3: Upper Register Tunings


  • Left-hand only slur up tests to identify good high note reeds.slur-ups-minimum-pp
  • G and Ab harmonic tunings are critical.
  • G fine tuning (B-G test).
  • Left-hand only A-B-C test.
  • C to Bb slur down.
  • Crosschecks.
  • Additional techniques.

The Final Tests

Test A final-test-1-pp
 Test B  final-test-2-pp
 Test C  final-test-3-pp

 Mark’s Reed Tool Desk